Our Moral Flat-Eartherism

Photograph Source: Elliot Sperber

Things are so crazy — so idiotically, self-destructively crazy these days, and have been for so long — that it’s hard to believe that this madhouse of a planet is even real. And maybe it’s not real. Maybe it’s all a crazy hallucination. That would be easier to swallow than thinking that people could be as unreasonable, as delusional, as they seem to be. Or maybe, as some contend, it is all a simulation, some sort of experiment, a test.

Of course, the singular bizarreness, the profound unlikelihood of existing at all, the radical mystery, is perplexing enough to drive anyone crazy. So maybe it makes sense (that everyone’s nuts). In light of this freakishness, how could anybody not be nuts somewhat?

But what does it mean to say that so many are so crazy (or presented as such in our distorted and distorting mass media)? An aspect of this is that people also seem to be so terribly rigid, and dogmatic. Desperate for comfort, or to exert some degree of control over the bewildering situation, people fabricate and cling to explanations, religions, and those religions of modernity: nationalism, and scientism, with their technofetishistic cults, among other ideologies. It doesn’t take much scrutiny to see that believing in such dogmas is as ridiculous as thinking that the earth is flat. (A reasonable skepticism can conceive of the planet as wholly immaterial, of course, as an energy field merely perceived as material, but as flat?)

And, yet, so many, as they look with justifiable disdain upon the flat-earther (or at other conspiracists, such as those more concerned about imaginary “chem trails” than actual pollutants and harms, or those scapegoating the powerless), fail to realize that their belief in economic growth, in capitalism, in the inevitability of poverty, war, and a planet divided into nation-states, amounts to a far more destructive moral flat-eartherism.

But it’s not the case that people are stupid fundamentally, or even violent and hateful, so much as fundamentally frightened. Terror of the blazing mystery of it all is what stupefies. It’s out of this position that the delusions (a mass paranoia), and the mad plans people hatch to secure themselves from their delusions, are concocted. Propelled and compelled by fear, instead of proceeding with cautious respect into the unknown, people attempt to control their confounding surroundings, and wind up abusing all that should be cared for, while caring for what’s abusing them, and this planet, to death.

Insisting that, yes, we know what we cannot possibly know (the absolute mystery), people reject the only truth that we can apprehend, a truth that springs not from any of our particular faiths but from our universal doubt: that all we really know of this mysterious world is that we’re in it together; that we’re all vulnerable here, and that we could make everything so much easier and nicer for everyone if we only had the courage (the coeur, the heart, the guts) to care for one another. People are afraid, however, that they would be taken advantage of — as though we’re not all being taken advantage of already by this world-devouring system, inseparable from all this moral flat-eartherism.

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com and on twitter @elliot_sperber